Mr. Atwater, who has been head of Pennsylvania's largest state-owned university since 2005, announced his resignation June 9, six months after the faculty overwhelmingly cast a vote of no confidence in his leadership. For the next year, he'll be serving an unpaid fellowship with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C.
The State System of Higher Education essentially is buying him out of his contract by agreeing to pay his $253,428 salary plus $15,000 in moving expenses and an additional sum for unused vacation time. A common practice in business, and perhaps the most expedient way to change leadership at IUP, the deal is nonetheless hard to swallow given what else is happening with finances at the school and the rest of the state's public colleges.
One cost-saving measure being implemented throughout the system's 14 campuses calls for putting on hold the 71 degree programs with low enrollment out of the total 1,260 offered. Reducing underutilitzed programs makes sense in good and bad economic times, and other cost-saving measures also have been undertaken.
So far, though, IUP is the only state-owned school that has decided to tack an additional 5 percent onto graduate level tuition in 12 of its programs. At IUP, that will affect hundreds of students -- 765 master's and doctoral candidates studied in those programs last year on the campus where total enrollment was 14,600. The tuition rates have not yet been set for fall, but if the full-time graduate rate for state residents remains $6,666, the surcharge will be $333.
The payments to Mr. Atwater don't add up to enough dollars to make a significant difference in tuition rates, but you can't blame students -- and their check-writing, taxpaying parents -- for feeling put upon by these two decisions.